Episode 126: Revolution: Russia Pt. 4

Russian Revolution 1917 Episodes

This week we bring our attention out of Russian politics and back to the war. Once things had begun to settle down in Petrograd and the rest of Russia, with the Provisional Government now mostly in control, everybody's mind turned back to the war. The most important area of focus was the upcoming attack that the Russians had promised that they would launch in the summer of 1917. This agreement had been reached late in 1916 when, much like in previous years, the French, British, Russians, and Italians had all met to try and determine their plans for 1917. They all decided that they would attack in spring and summer 1917, hopefully all around the same time, much like they had planned to do in 1916 before Verdun got in the way. This agreement would result in the Nivelle Offensive in the west which we have not covered yet, with the British and French attacking along the front, and the attacks on the Isonzo that would make up the 10th and 11th battles. The Russian part of this was a promise to launch an attack somewhere along the Eastern front, with the positioning of that attack left up to them. Even with the change in government in March this was still the plan. With all of the instability of the government and the army you may be wondering why this was a good idea, and, well, it was not a good idea at all. We will spend a good part of this episode discussing why trying to get the 1917 Russian army to attack was about the worst possible thing that could be done, and it would hasten the collapse of the Army as a whole.


The History of the Great war is also available on Stitcher

Sources


The Failure of Rural Policy in Russia, February-October 1917 by Graeme J. Gill
The Breakup of the Anglo-Russia Alliance: The Question of Supply in 1917 by Keith E. Neilson
The Russian Revolution and the German Social Democratic Party in 1917 by John L. Snell
The First Russian Revolution by William Henry Chamberlain
The Russian General Staff and the June 1917 Offensive by Robert S. Feldman
The Unanimous Revolution: Russia, February 1917 by Robert Bruce Lockhart
The Russian Soldier in 1917: Undisciplined, Patriotic, and Revolutionary by Marc Ferro
The Russians, The Allies, and the War, February-July 1917 by L. P. Morris
Russian Military Intelligence 1905-1917: The Untold Story behind Tsarist Russia in the First World War by Alex Marshall

Transcript

This week we bring our attention out of Russian politics and back to the war. Once things had begun to settle down in Petrograd and the rest of Russia, with the Provisional Government now mostly in control, everybody's mind turned back to the war. The most important area of focus was the upcoming attack that the Russians had promised that they would launch in the summer of 1917. This agreement had been reached late in 1916 when, much like in previous years, the French, British, Russians, and Italians had all met to try and determine their plans for 1917. They all decided that they would attack in spring and summer 1917, hopefully all around the same time, much like they had planned to do in 1916 before Verdun got in the way. This agreement would result in the Nivelle Offensive in the west which we have not covered yet, with the British and French attacking along the front, and the attacks on the Isonzo that would make up the 10th and 11th battles. The Russian part of this was a promise to launch an attack somewhere along the Eastern front, with the positioning of that attack left up to them. Even with the change in government in March this was still the plan. With all of the instability of the government and the army you may be wondering why this was a good idea, and, well, it was not a good idea at all. We will spend a good part of this episode discussing why trying to get the 1917 Russian army to attack was about the worst possible thing that could be done, and it would hasten the collapse of the Army as a whole.

The revolution that had happened in Petrograd could not help by affect the men at the front. When the revolution had occurred many of the soldiers at the front supported it and when the Tsar abdicated many were extremely happy with how things were going. The Tsar received much of the blame for the problems at the front. Another development that was more than welcomed was the new voice that the soldiers felt that they had in the government of the country, this came to them courtesy of the soldier's representatives in the Petrograd Soviet. Having this connection to national government was important, and the soldiers put their faith in the Soviet, which I find to be interesting considering how separated from the front those soldiers in Petrograd were. They had even made it clear in their agreement with the Provisional Government that no troops from Petrograd could be moved to the front. They were still soldiers though, which was more than could be said for any other group, so they had at least some power over the soldiers at the front. Seeing their importance they issued Order No. 1 in which the Petrograd Soviet called upon the soldiers of the army to obey the Provisional Government, with one big caveat. This caveat was that they should only obey orders that did not contradict the policies of the Soviet. While there were changes happening to the national government the units at the front also brought self-government a little closer to the trenches by forming soldier's committees as the company and battalion levels. These were used to organize pushes for reforms for soldiers at the front which at the start were simple things, better food, higher pay, more support for soldier's families. All of these were typical things that any soldier would want, and in these demands you can also determine something of the mindset of the soldiers. When asking for items like better food and pay it is clear that they planned to continue to fight in the war, they were not yet ready to abandon their posts. If they felt that they were done with the war why would they be asking for items that would make the rest of the war better?

The development of these committees were a worrying trend for the officers of the Russian army. On March 11th, just a few weeks after the revolution had occurred Alexeyev, Chief of the Russian General Staff, sent a letter to all of his commanders giving them information about the situation. He warned his generals that the Provisional Government had some serious weaknesses and that the army must maintain its strength to meet the upcoming challenges. His fear was that extreme elements would make their way into both the army and the government making possible future armed combat among Russians a likely possibility. He also suggested that the officers not try to stamp out the soldier's committees that had already formed. He believed that this would just increase resentment among the soldier and instead he suggested the best course of action was to have officers participate in the groups, to try and gain some measure of control over them. This was a reasonable course of action, in theory, the officers could be a moderating influence on the groups, and could maybe even nudge them in the way that they wanted over time. There were some problems in having the officers try to integrate with the groups though. The first was that the officers of the Russian army had maintained perhaps the largest amount of separation from the enlisted men of any of the armies of Europe during the war. They had also been disconnected from normal Russian life while they had served in the army. During this period of time they had grown to have a mindset that they were different, better, than the ordinary soldiers, many of which had peasant backgrounds. Once they began participating in the groups another problem was encountered, the officers were completely unpepared to handle the questions and conversations that were happening within the committees. This was especially true around political questions, which were obviously a common topic. Questions were being asked like how the army related to the social and political systems of the country, the position that the army and its soldiers played in the state, what a state even was. During their instruction to become officers nothing that they had been taught prepared them to answer these type of questions. The officers simply did not have any experience dealing with these topics and found themselves outclassed by the men. This caused many officers to no longer participate out of fear that they would be outed as perhaps not being as smart as they liked to pretend and it also reinforced previously held beliefs on both side of the soldier/officer divide. For the men it reinforced that the army and its structure were like the old government and was not something that could be changed, only dismantled. On the officer side it emphasized that discussing matters as a committee, on equal terms, with the soldiers below them was a recipe for disaster.

The problems back in Petrograd also began to migrate to the front in another way, beyond just political rhetoric and questioning. This was in the form of some of the economic and supply problems revolving most importantly around food but also dealing with other goods at the front. Rations were something hard to come by, and at times they were substituted with paper money which could, in a more reasonable time, be used to buy food in the rear areas. However, due to the economic instability of the Russian economy this paper money was practically worthless. This was doubly true in the rear areas behind the front where black marketing profiteering was the rule and not the exception. This might not have been enough to cause a catastrophic failure of the army, and in fact most soldiers were still willing to defend their country in 1917. When people like Kerensky would come to the front and give speeches in the spring and summer of the year many soldiers would often buy into and agree with his message. Sacrifices had to be made for as long as it took to defend the new country and government from the Germans, the motherland must be protected from all who would seek to tear it down. This was a message that the soldiers could identify with, especially because they now felt that they had a larger voice in national politics than at any previous point in history. However, not matter how much the soldiers were leaning toward continued support for the government the new from home was not very good at all. There were constant letters from family members describing how cold and hungry they were, sometimes they were just barely able to make it by. What good was the sacrifices at the front to safeguard a government that could not even provide for its citizens? Was it worth continuing to fight when at the end there may not be anybody at home to return to?

The problems at the front, and concerns about the home front were items that caused issues for the army in 1917. Some estimates put the number of deserters per month as high as 35,000 a month. That is more than a combat division every single month. However, there are other historians that put the number quite a bit lower than that. In his book The Eastern Front Norman Stone dismisses some of these larger, more doom and gloom inspired estimates claiming that they were embellishments and mistakes made by officers who were not sure what was happening "Officers said that the army had dissolved: but mainly because the men had repudiated the more extreme forms of their authority. They mistook questioning for disobedience, committees of the soldiers for mutiny," This is supported by the fact that there is a lot of evidence that most soldiers were supportive of the government to at least stay in the lines to defend their country. Unfortunately this was not all that their country was going to ask them to do, and instead they were not going to be called upon to launch an attack. Brusilov, who always seems to have been optimistic about the changes of the army, would later say that the summer 1917 offensive was a mistake not due to a flawed plan but instead because it put so much strain on an army that was already on shaky footing and it would not prove to be up to the task.

One move that was made early in the planning process for the attack was a replacement at the top of the Russian army. Alekseev had long been in command, but now that there was new political leadership he was seen as too negative and he would be replaced by the one person who seemed to be both positive and skilled, Brusilov. Brusilov was still riding high off of his successes of 1916 but these successes did not make him well liked by his subordinates. This dislike was increased greatly when Brusilov came out in general support and acceptance of the soldier committees that most other generals saw as a serious breach of discipline. Brusilov tried to be more realistic about the current situation in the army, in his mind the soldier's committees had been a fait accompli and the only possible course of action was to adjust to the new reality. Brusilov also believed that the army could and should attack. This was not a view shared by Alekseev and other members of Russian command before Brusilov took command, they believed that the Army should go on the defensive until the situation at home stabilized a bit more. Brusilov led a group of generals who believed that now was the time to strike. The hope was that the revolution would re-invigorate the Russian army, they were now fighting for their new country where they had a voice in the government, this was much the same as what had happened during the French Revolution, and in that revolution the army had been spurred on by patriotic fervor and that led them to victory. That was the thought anyway, it remained to be seen if it would actually happen. Regardless of their veracity these beliefs both got him the job and then were used by Kerensky and others in the government to push for political support for the attack. At the front the belief in the attack was in all actuality quite, fluid. The commander of the Fifth Army General Dragomirov would say that "in reserve, regiments declare their readiness to fight on to full victory, but then baulk at the demand to go into the trenches." There were units at the front that were ready and willing to attack, these were units that did buy into the new government, that were filled with patriotic feelings, and they would attack with just as much force as any Russian general could hope for, the question became, was there enough of them.

The attack would take place in Galicia, where it was hoped that the Austrian troops would prove an easier nut to crack than the Germans would do their north. However by this stage in the war the two armies were largely integrated together, with the Austrian units under German command and having a fair amount of German personnel and equipment. The initial plan called for a massive attack using a very large number of troops, however, this was difficult to make happen. Just moving that many troops, then keeping them supplied before during and after the attack would put too much strain on the limited transportation available to the Russians at the front. So instead of massing huge numbers of troops like what had happened before instead Brusilov would use special shock battalions would be used to find and assault weak points in the lines which would then be neutralized by follow on troops. This was not that much different than other armies' use of assault troops and in this case it aligned well with the strengths of the Russian Army. They had a relatively small number of very dedicated and loyal troops, these could be used in the assault battalions to maximum effect. Hopefully when they were successful it would be easier to get the other, less certain, troops to join in the attack. The end result in either case would not be some massive offensive with the goal of knocking somebody out of the war or taking a large amount of territory. Instead, the goal was just to tie down the German troops, hopefully making them transfer troops to the East or at least keep all of their troops in the East while the French and British attacked in the West.

The original plan called for the attack to begin on June 10th, however there were some issues meeting this date, most of which were political. Kerensky was trying to make sure that he had the support of all of the major political groups within the government before launching the attack and to do this he used a few different methods. First he tried to convince them that by launching the attack the Russians would be put in a position of strength from which to call for peace. He also mixed in his own opinions on the men and their morale from the front. Over the preceeding weeks and months he had visited the front several times, which as a charismatic leader was helpful since he was able to give impassioned speeches that were well received. However, these speeches, the audience to which he was speaking, and their reactions led Kerensky to make some incorrect assumptions and overbroad generalizations about the situation at the front. When he would meet a group of soldiers they were often hand-picked men, mainly officers, members of soldier committees, and men who were well educated socialist thought leaders before the war. All of these were hand-picked by the organizers to give a good impression to Kerensky. From this very unrepresentative cross-section of the army Kerensky made assumptions about how ready and willing every soldier was to fight in the upcoming attack. Kerensky was not the only one to make these mistakes though, and many army leaders up to and including Brusilov would make similar misjudgments. Brusilov also believed that the soldiers desperately wanted peace, so much so that they would attack willingly if they were promised that it was the quickest way to end the war. The assumptions from both of these Russian leaders would prove to be far off base when the attack was launched.

One area that we have not discussed much for the Russian army was the area of military intelligence. In the decade before the war the Russians had greatly increased their funding for military intelligence and this had allowed them to do a pretty good job at gathering and analyzing information. They had some really good maps of Germany's eastern provinces, with information about the fortifications and strategic points in the area. They also had a pretty good idea on what the Germans were going to do. On the Austrian front they were even better prepared. However, most of this intelligence was gained in the prewar years where they could travel freely in the countries that they were gathering the information on and much of this was gained by diplomats in the foreign countries. When the war started the critical deficiencies in other areas of military intelligence would begin to emerge for the Russians. One particularly problematic area, and one that would haunt them for the rest of the war, was around radio and signals security. Right from the start the Russians found it almost impossible to keep their secret messages, well, secret, with the Germans and Austrians breaking code after code. Some of this was due to bad luck and bad timing, but also some of the issues were caused by Russian ineptitude. For example, there were instances where both old and new codes would be used by various army groups when sending the same message, this would instantly give the enemy the chance to decrypt the new code as soon as it was introduced. Since the enemy often knew what was happening, or at least had a pretty good idea, it was much easier to react to the Russian actions, this would be true in the summer of 1917 as well. The Germans and Austrians would know both of the Russian plans and that conditions behind their front were deteriorating rapidly.

The attack would begin at 9AM on June the 18th, and it started out, surprisingly, quite well. The artillery barrage had destroyed many of the Austrian positions and the Russian armies began advancing on a front of 40 miles. These gains would prove to be illusory though. The Austrians and Germans had begun using the elastic defense much like what they were doing in the West in 1917, and this meant that they were barely defending the areas that the Russians were now advancing into. Once the advance had reached a depth of 2 miles, which took about 2 days, the leading attack units just…stopped. They believed that they had done their part in the attack and that it was now time for reserve units to come forward and continue the attack, only those units did not want to do that. The reserve units simply refused to go forward to take their turn in the attack, and while officers tried their best to enforce this movement and to reestablish discipline they were unsuccessful. Therefore the attack just ended, and when the counter attacks were launched in response the Russians were disorganized and low on morale, causing them to simply disintegrate.

One interesting unit that took part in the attack was the 1st Russian Womens' Battalion of Death. This was a unit of several hundred women that had been formed by Maria Bochareva. She had petitioned the government for permission to create an all-women's unit to participate in the war at the front. This was granted, and out of 2,000 volunteers 300 would make it long enough to get to the front. The government hoped that this group would inspire the men at the front and cause them to attack because, after all, the women were doing it. It was also seen as a valuable bit of propaganda. To this end they would be put in the trenches for the Summer 1917 offensive. When the time came, and they went over to attack, very few men would end up being inspired by them. The Battalion was able to take a few German trenches, like many other units during the attack, however they were soon pushed back by counter attacks. With the failure of the attack the question became what to do with this unit, and other women's units who were in the process of creation. At the front they were often seen as a liability due to the resentment that was focused on them from male units, and equipping and training the units used valuable resources that could be used elsewhere. There was some thought in using female units to replace the men in auxiliary roles behind the front, like as railway guards and other security troops. However the men who had those roles were none too eager to be replaced by female units, because when they were replaced there was only one place that the men could go, to the front. In August the units would be disbanded, but several more all women units would be formed in the coming months as the October revolution began, we will meet one such unit next episode as it makes a name for itself in the October revolution as the last defenders of the Winter Palace and the Provisional government against Bolshevik aggression.

The attack as a whole had cost only around 37,000 casualties, which was a miniscule amount compared to previous Russian attacks, some of which had cost 10 times as many men. However, among those 37,000 were a high proportion of the most loyal and willing troops that Russian still had, and that they would need if they wanted to launch future attacks, or even continue the war. Since many units had refused to go forward, those who did go forward found themselves taking the heaviest casualties, and in the future units would not make the same mistake. Therefore, the actual effect on the army was far greater than just the 37,000. There were also many deserters, somewhere around 170,000 troops over the course of the offensive. These came not just in one or two or small groups but also in the form of entire units, who took over entire regions behind the front. A few weeks leader the Russian 8th Army essentially ceased to exist due to the number of men who had deserted. This was also basically the beginning of the end of the war on the Russian Front. In August the Germans would take advantage of the situation to launch an attack in the north which resulted in them capturing Riga. The failures at the front, both on the offense and defense would break the morale of even the most loyal supporters of the Kerensky government. The collapse of the attack would also have a catastrophic effect on the Provisional Government. It has placed it future in the hands of the army's attack, using most of it political capital to gain support for the attack. And now that gamble had failed, and soon the leaders of Russia would pay the price because as Summer came to a close and Autumn dawned there was a new threat to the Russian government on the horizon.
By May he would be joined by two other soon to be famous leaders of the future Russian government, Trotsky and Stalin. Even with the Bolshevik cause slowly coalescing around their future leaders they were still very much a small minority for most of the spring and summer months of 1917. The Soviet was instead controlled by the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries who between them had a huge majority of the seats. However, as the situation within the country continued to deteriorate over the summer the Bolsheviks, who were far more radical than the other parties, began to gain momentum. In his work Revolutionary Russia: 1891-1991 Orlando Figes would speak to a common misconception about the October Revolution "One of the most basic misconceptions about the October Revolution is that the Bolsheviks were swept to power on a tide of mass support for the Party. They were not. The October insurrection was a Coup d'etat, actively supported by a small minority of the population, but it took place in the midst of a social revolution, which was focused on the popular ideal of Soviet power." Today we will discuss how this revolution, insurrection, Coup d'etat, whatever you wish to call it happened. We will discuss the rise of the Bolsheviks over the summer and how they then launched their Revolution. This will be our second to last episode on Russia in 1917, with our next episode discussing how they exited the war in the late 1917 and early 1918.

How Lenin got back into Russia, from exile in Switzerland, in April 1917 is a somewhat famous story. The German government, with the knowledge and permission of Ludendorff, decided to try and destabilize the Russian Government, which was already looking very unsteady after the events of February. The theory that they would work under was that if they took an important leader of a group that was likely to push for peace, which the Bolsheviks were, and then supported that leader then that might just knock Russia out of the war. To do this they transported Lenin from Switzerland to Russia, in a sealed train, at night. It is tempting in hindsight to say that this was a catastrophically bad move, after all it would begin a series of events that would lead to the Soviet Union, the brutal Eastern Front of the Second World War, then 50 years of Soviet and Western European antagonism, however, as always we need to make sure we are not using hindsight as a way to unfairly judge decisions. All the Germans were doing was taking one radical revolutionary and adding him into a pot of many more radical revolutionaries. There was not guarantee that he was going to be able to control the government at any point in the future, in fact the odds were against the Bolsheviks being in control at all, ever. But even if they failed in that goal their agitation would still bring about what Germany wanted, Russia out of the war, and in that regard it worked perfectly. So short term their plan worked out great, long term, maybe not so much. Regardless of if this decision was smart or monumentally stupid, it happened and just a bit before midnight on April 3 Lenin arrived in Petrograd after being in exile for 17 years. On the very next day he gave his April Thesis to the Social Democrats and the Bolsheviks, two groups that were very much on the far left side of the spectrum. In it he pushed for these groups to remove their support for the government and to begin pushing for a proletariat revolution as soon as possible. This went against the thinking of the more moderate socialists at the time, who were still riding out the bourgeois revolution which was in Marxist theory the correct step to be on. Lenin's push for an immediate revolution was, at least at the moment more extreme than even the more extreme sides of the Bolsheviks. However Lenin found support among some members, and also from the uneducated members of the Socialist Groups as a whole. These members had already been pushing for the next stage of the revolution, disregarding the theorizing of that Marx guy, and they now had somebody speaking what they were thinking. As part of the next socialist revolution Lenin planned to nationalize the banks and property, abolish the army to be replaced by a militia, and he would, of course, end the war. He was also pushing for a policy of moving all power away from the Provisional Government and putting it all in the hands of the Soviet. Of course, he planned on getting control of the Soviet before this happened.

When Lenin delivered his Thesis others in the Soviet were not as receptive as the Bolsheviks and Social Democrats. The Mensheviks booed and whistled at him. He was accused of ignoring the lessons of Marx and Engels, who had warned against the premature movements to secure power by the proletariat. While at the moment the Mensheviks enjoyed a large group of supporters, they were at a disadvantage when going against Lenin and his more radical ideas. Lenin absolutely believed in his own historical destiny which would give him a leading role in the socialist revolution which was to come. Everything he would do in 1917 was driven towards this goal, and he had no doubt that he would meet it. However, before he could do that, Lenin would have to get all of his own party onto his side. The Bolsheviks would never be a monolithic bloc that was easily controlled, during the summer and autumn of 1917, then during the Brest-Litovsk negotiations, and even when they were finally in power, they would always be split into several groups. The problem that the Bolsheviks had, is that they all agreed on the problems, and they all agreed on some basic solutions, but the details were all over the place. The big overriding concern for most of 1917 though was that if they tried to seize power too soon then they were at risk of being defeated. Those who were most concerned about this pointed to the fate of the Paris Commune of 1871 as an example of how much this could set back a revolution. The Bolsheviks also had to balance their support with the most radical of groups. The Bolsheviks had grown their support, at least partially, through the courting and accepting of the most radical elements of Russian socialism and they found these groups were ready and willing to join other radical groups to make the revolution happen soon. They were also quite impatient, and this forced to Bolsheviks to always, or at least appear to, be driving for the next step to make it happen. If they did not continue this then they risked losing the more radical groups within their coalition. It did not help that the most radical members were the most willing to actively participate in any action, so if the Bolsheviks lost them then it would just be more difficult to put any of their plans into action. In June the Bolsheviks were able to score a big propaganda victory during a Demonstration which was held by the Soviet to try and promote unity. Instead of promoting Unity the Bolsheviks arrived on the scene and with their All Power to the Soviets message were able to gain a lot of support from members and supporters of the Soviet.

In July there would be an opportunity for the Bolsheviks to move forward with their revolutionary plans. The flashpoint for this moment involved the First Machine Gun Regiment. This unit was based in Petrograd, and had been for some time. It was made up of 10,000 men, many of which had been expelled from their frontline units due to insubordination. Many of them had also bought into the more radical revolutionary causes, with some gravitating towards the Bolsheviks and others towards the even more radical anarchists. Needless to say, they were no fans of the Provisional Government. Late in June they were ordered to send 500 machine guns and enough men to crew them to the front. If you remember, last episode when we discussed the agreement between the Soviet and the new Government a key piece of that agreement was that none of the Petrograd garrison would ever have to be transferred to the front. This was the first time that the government was testing the agreement, and it backfired. Instead of obeying the order the Regiment took to the streets in protest. They were then joined by many Bolsheviks and this in turn forced the Bolshevik leadership to make a decision, to either join them or risk losing their support. On the next day the protests continued, only now they were joined by 20,000 other soldiers and sailors. All of these men were armed and ready to fight the government but they were in search of guidance, leadership, and unifying purpose and to find it they arrived at the Bolshevik headquarters. This was enough protests to easily march on the Tauride palace, where the government was located, and to round them all up and take control of Russia, all that was needed was the call to go out from leaders that now was the time for action. However, instead of delivering a decisive and inspiring speech calling for the proletariat to rise to take control Lenin…didn't. He did not deliver any kind of decisive directions and instructions for what should be done. So the protesters just sort of wandered around, mainly toward the Tauride palace, without any real push for action. There were still a lot of them though, and that counted for something. There were 50,000 armed protesters, and they were moving off towards the palace, so the situation was nothing to scoff at. All that were available to try and stop them were a few dozen Cossacks who were still willing to defend the government. However, more loyal troops were already on their way into the city, and since the mod lacked direction and purpose these troops had time to arrive. By the next day the protests had lost all momentum and were broken up by rain. This single moment, when the revolutionaries called out to the Bolsheviks to lead them and they didn't, almost destroyed the party. They had lost some of their appeal from the radicals, and the government would label them traitors. Lenin would spend the next several months on the run from government officials, with Stalin leading the efforts to keep him one step ahead of the government. The saving grace of the Bolsheviks, would surprisingly, be the other parties in the Soviet. The socialist parties within Russia had a long standing tradition of sticking together and defending each other, even if they disagreed on some of the finer details of socialism. This had been very important before the war when they were all in the minority and it was still something that done in the Soviet of 1917. In this case though, again with hindsight, it was not the correct move.

After the events of July the government of Russia experienced a shift. On July 8th Kerensky became Prime Minister and he was able to consolidate power around him. He also used the opportunity provided to him by the protests to break all ties with the Soviet. This resulted in the Soviet losing almost all of its real power. The government was also moved out of the Tauride Palace and into the Winter Palace. This put both physical and psychological distance between the government and the heart of the revolution in central Petrograd. There were also laws that were passed to begin the process of limiting the ability of people to assemble in public. This was obviously a move to counter the power of the workers, soldiers, and Soviet to launch public protests. On July 18th changes were also made at the front with Brusilov dismissed from his command. He would go to Moscow where he would spend time with his family until later in the year when he would return to the army. He replacement was General Kornilov who was described by former Chief of Staff Alexeyev as having "the heart of a lion, the brains of a sheep." Kerensky hoped that Kornilov would be a good supporter in the military, somebody who he could count on and possible control. He also hoped that Kornilov's background, from a family of Cossacks and somewhat lower in class, would endear him to the people and soldiers. Kornilov was also extremely conservative. When he took command of the army he began reversing many of the progressive changes and policies advocated for by Brusilov. He moved to disband the soldier committees and he reinstated the death penaly. To gain support for these moves Kornilov went to Petrograd to get Kerensky to sign off on what were sure to be unpopular measures. Instead of showing up alone to the meeting he instead brought his own body guard and two machine guns. He then tried to persuade Kerensky to officially adopt and publically support his proposals. This put Kerensky in a tough spot. If he went with Kornilov any support from the left would be gone, and if he went against him any support from the right would be gone. He instead tried to frame Kornilov's move as a counter-revolutionary conspiracy. This was the one path that Kerensky could take that would allow him to at least, maybe, keep most of his supporters. The one thing more important that political views, opinions, or disagreements was the protection of the revolution, and Kerensky tapped into that sentiment. Through this maneuvering he was able to get support from the cabinet to dismiss Kornilov. This would come at a price though, although not immediately, because it solved the problem of the moment, in the end it would be the beginning of his downfall. Through his political maneuvering during the Kornilov crisis Kerensky had simply burned too many bridges. On the right those who supported the army saw Kerensky's move as a betrayal. On the left, the soldiers, workers, and socialists, who had rallied to help Kerensky against Kornilov, would never shake the feeling that maybe it had been Kerensky's fault in the first place. At the front he normal soldiers also believed that their officers had supported Kornilov and his regressive and oppressive views, eroding much of whatever discipline was still left in the army. This created a situation that Kerensky, even though he had by this point had at completely control of the government on paper, was beginning to be ignored. The downfall of Kerensky is a textbook definition of how not to run a country which is coming out of a revolution. He had at the end made the same mistakes as the Tsar that he had replaced. He refused to recognize the real threat that he faced from the people and instead believed that he had far more authority than he actually did, and then he tried to use that non-existent authority to assert his role as ruler, and it failed completely. With the reduction in support for Kerensky and the Provisional Government there was once again a power vacuum in Russia. In February there had been something similar, and the socialists had been hesitant to full it, and instead the Provisional Government was created, but now everything had changed.

The months of August and September were months of massive growth for the Bolsheviks. As the Kerensky government collapsed, as Lenin said that it would, and the situation deteriorated further the Bolshevik message became more and more appealing. During these two months the group would almost double in size and in the Petrograd Duma they would go from having 20 percent to 33 percent of the seats. They would have an even larger increase in support in Moscow, where they went from 11 to 51 percent. A similar movement was occurring in the Soviets as the Mensheviks and SRs, who had supported the government that was now collapsing, saw a huge migration of members to the Bolsheviks. There were also many members who moved away from the moderate groups and instead of going with the Bolsheviks created their own smaller groups. For the Bolsheviks and Lenin this was just fine as well, since they were far larger than these new splinter groups and it got them closer to the numbers of the Mensheviks and SRs. The Bolsheviks were also quite successful in finding ways to gain influence and control over these new smaller parties, a practice that they would become quite skilled at. Just before the launching of the October Revolution the party would be joined by one of its most famous members, Leon Trotsky. Before he moved over to the Bolsheviks he had been a member of a group called the Menshevik Internationalists. And when he came over he brought with him a group called , and I hope I have this close to right, the Mezhraionka which was a group of about 4,000 members. The leaders of this group would become a key part of the revolutionary cause and would play some of the leading roles in the coming revolution and Civil War. Trotsky himself was a gifted public speaker and he would take the leading role in the formation of the new government after the revolution. As the summer turned into Autumn and the Bolsheviks grew in power there was also a noticeable increase in tension. In the factories the same sorts of struggles continued that had been happening for months and in the countryside September would see a marked increase in violence. With the autumn ploughing season approaching the peasants were just straight up tired of the delays from the Provisional Government when it came to solving the land ownership problem. Therefore they increased their violence against the land owners and the number of village Soviets all over Russia increased. This gave the peasants their long sought after self-rule. In Petrograd Lenin was waffling on whether he thought that an overthrow of the government should be attempted sooner or later. On one hand, as the power of Kerensky and the Provisional Government waned, the Soviet was gaining power by the day. On the other hand Lenin was not sure that he wanted to launch a revolution while the probably outcome was one of a shared coalition between all of the socialist parties, he wanted the power all to himself. The questions of when and h ow the Soviet should proceed came to a head at the September Democratic Conference. The Bolshevik leaders brought a deal to the other groups, they would give up their campaign for an armed uprising if the Soviet leaders agreed to assume power in the country. They would then compete for power within the Soviet movement, instead of trying to circumvent it with an armed revolution. An agreement on this proposal was never reached, and that caused Lenin to revert back to his hard line strategy of an armed uprising, and one that would happen soon. There was some urgency in his plans as well mostly stemming from the fact that Lenin seemed to believe that Kerensky could do something to stop what was going to happen by either putting down the movement or by moving the government away from the revolutionaries. Neither of these things were remotely possible by this stage, but Lenin did not know that, and it is better to assume your enemy is too strong than that they are too weak. With his new determination to launch an armed uprising he also had a date by which he wanted it to be completed. This date was set by the next Petrograd Congress, which would take place in October. He believed that if the Bolsheviks could begin their movement before that congress began then it would put the other parties in an impossible situation. They could either join the Bolsheviks, but cede to Lenin the leading role, or they could go into opposition, which would leave the Bolsheviks to gain power by themselves. Both of these were acceptable in the eyes of Lenin and the others in the Bolshevik Central committee. A good pretext for this move was given to Lenin by the Germans when they increased their holdings around Riga with another attack, which increased the possibility of a German march on Petrograd itself.

The Bolshevik plan was pretty simple in execution. They would gather up their groups of supporters from the garrison units, Red Guards, and the sailors all of which they could count on for support. They would then march these troops to the Marinsky Palace to disperse parliament and demand the surrender of the Provisional Government. If that was refused then they would march to seize control of the Winter Palace where the government was based. The plan was for all of this to happen on the first day of the Soviet Congress of October, hopefully before noon when the congress started. Unfortunately there were a series of delays that changed when precisely it did occur, however other than that the plan mostly went off without a hitch. During the night the Red Guards seized control of places like post offices, telephone exchanges, railway stations, and bridges which allowed them to assert almost completely control over the city before the next day, when the real work would begin. One of the more impressive things about this action would be how small the number of actual participants was, with numbers only being between 10 and 15 thousand. This was far fewer than the protests in February, and even just a small fraction of what had taken place in July. It was also so small that many residents of Petrograd did not even know that it had happened. About 3 hours after the Provisional Government rejected the demand for surrender the shooting would begin. The first guns to fire were aboard the Russian cruiser Aurora, which was controlled by revolutionary sailors out of Kronstadt. They began to fire on the Winter Palace, and they were soon joined by guns from the Peter and Paul fortress. The troops around the palace could have launched their assault at any time, but they believed that it was far better defended than it actually was. Over the course of the next 24 hours what defenders had been there when the revolution began had melted away as it became clear that the situation was not going to improve. By the next day it was all over. In the Soviet Congress the biggest mistake of the entire revolution was made, a mistake that would haunt those involved for years. The Bolsheviks did not have a majority in the Congress, a combination of the Mensheviks and SRs did. However, when the assault on the government was announced the Mensheviks and SRs walked out of the Congress in protest. They did not want any part in what they believed was a criminal venture, and one destined to fail. However, what the Bolsheviks were doing was not going to fail, and instead they had just handed the keys of the entire Soviet, the only political body in Russia that had any power, to the Bolsheviks. In 1921 one of the delegates who had wanted out would say that with this move "We completely untied the Bolshevik's hands, making them masters of the whole situation and yielding to them the whole arena of the Revolution By our own irrational decision, we ensured the victory of Lenin's whole line." The Bolsheviks were able to claim that everybody who had left the congress were anti-revolutionary, the worst possible crime that a Soviet could commit. Trotsky called for a motion to condemn the attempts of the Mensheviks and SRs to undermine the power of the Soviet. With these moves the Bolsheviks were in power, very few believed that they were to stay there, but after years of civil war, they would be the only group left standing. On October 26th, Lenin announced the formation of the new government the Council of People's Commissars and their first act was to call for peace, to begin with a 3 month armistice.